So we’re getting Sean Casey. While I can’t really say that I have strong feelings on the subject one way or another, it’s a Red Sox transaction and thus must be documented. In excessive detail. Here we go.
Q: What’s the nature of the transaction?
A: One year deal at $700K according to the Great Gammons. Edes says $800K. Doesn’t look like a minor league invite sort of thing, but the contract is apparently non-guaranteed.
Q: Who is Sean Casey?
A: A 1B/DH type, pretty much strictly, who’s played with Cleveland (briefly), Cincinnatti, Detroit, Pittsburgh in his career. While much beloved by fans, players and media, I’m probably faster than he is. Like, a lot faster. And I’m the slowest man alive.
Q: What’s with the much beloved bit?
A: Casey is rumored to be the most popular player in MLB. As the good folks over at Surviving Grady relate, in a survey of 464 major leaguers asked who the friendliest player was, Casey’s name was returned on 46% of the ballots. The runners up? Jim Thome and Mike Sweeney, at a whopping 7% a piece. Put more simply: you don’t pick up a moniker like “The Mayor” by being a dick.
Q: So he’s one of those rare players the ravenous Boston media won’t pick on?
A: Sure seems that way. Witness these tidbits, “a very popular and enthusiastic player,” “considered an outstanding clubhouse influence,” “excellent contact hitter,” “chosen for three NL All-Star teams,” “made a big impact with Detroit.”
Q: Ok, the Boston media is sold. How about you?
A: Meh. As I said from the outset, I’ve really got no strong feelings one way or another. He’s got some very useful skills, but lacks the versatility you’d expect from a bench player, as Allen Chace over at Over the Monster notes.
Q: Let’s parse that a little bit: what are his useful skills?
A: Dude, it’s the Red Sox front office. What do you think? Baserunning?
The guy gets on base. Lifetime OBP is .366, and last year was at .353.
Q: I’ve heard – via Nick Cafardo – that he’s a good pinch hitter as well. Is that true?
A: Well, Cafardo has him at 5-11 last year in that role. Which is good. ESPN actually has him at 6-12, which is also good. But given that his three year total of 21 ABs as a PH is the very definition of small sample size, I’m not ready to draw any firm conclusions off of that fact.
Q: Gotcha. So the OBP is good. What are the downsides?
A: Primarily, as discussed by Allen, there’s the lack of versatility. I’ve never been considered the world’s biggest Hinske fan, but at least he gives you the option in the outfield. As would have a Brad Wilkerson, before he signed with the Mariners.
Casey’s limited, but balancing that is Youk’s abilities at third. So though Casey is limited to first, given Youk’s versatility, The Mayor effectively represents relief at both first and third.
The other primarily limitation of Casey’s game is power. Put bluntly, it’s never really been a part of his game. Lifetime SLG is .450, and his last three years are .364/.408/.393. But in a bench player, that’s not really such a priority.
Q: What do the players think?
A: Given his reputation, they’re likely to be as fired up as Curt Schilling is. As an aside to Curt, who observed “I think he’s gotten the best of me more than I on him,” that’s not quite true. He’s at 6 hits in 19 ABs with 2 BBs, for a .316/.381/.474 line. Thus he’s hit you well, but not more often than you get him.
Q: What do the splits tell us?
A: One minor surprise: he’s better against lefties than righties over the last 3 years (.326/.380/.448 vs .284/.346/.387). Other than that, very little of significance: he hasn’t hit well at Camden Yard in 13 ABs (.445 OPS), hasn’t been much better at Fenway (.483 OPS in 30 ABs), and is worst at Yankee Stadium (.417 OPS in 21 ABs). He also hasn’t responded well to the DH role in a mere 26 ABs, hitting .192/.250/.308 in that role.
Q: A cursory glance suggests that Casey is like an older Youk. Is that reasonably accurate?
A: Well, they’re both first baseman with lower power profiles than you expect for the position, but Youk can handle third and gets on base at a slightly higer clip (.383 to .366 lifetime). Interestingly, though, Casey’s hit for a bit more pop over his career (.450 to Youk’s .434). I hadn’t known that.
Q: So what’s the bottom line on this deal?
A: Seems like a classic low-risk/moderate reward scenario. At worst, he’s a low cost (read: easily jettisoned) asset with the club who may make the clubhouse a better place. At best, he’s a good OBP bat off the bench that can spell both Lowell at third (by proxy) and Youk at first, which is important since the fomer is aging (33) and the latter tends to wear down (1st and 2nd half splits the last 3 years: .309/.410/.478 vs .249/.355/.384). Thus, I give the deal a thumbs up, even if I’m not dancing in the streets as a result.